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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
Andrew Arthur

Construction firm Keir wins £460m deal for A417 upgrade

Construction firm Keir has been awarded a £460m contract by National Highways to upgrade a “vital” route through the West Country.

The project will see work take place on a "missing link" along the A417 between Gloucester and Swindon, which helps to connect the Midlands and North of England to the South.

A three-mile stretch of single-lane carriageway on the A417 between the Brockworth bypass and Cowley roundabout in Gloucestershire could be replaced with four miles of new dual carriageway.

National Highways (formerly Highways England) said this could improve connection with the existing A417 dual carriageway south of Cowley, in efforts to alleviate congestion.

It added the scheme would also see:

  • the section to the west of the existing Air Balloon roundabout follow the existing A417 corridor. However, the section to the south and east of the Air Balloon roundabout would be offline, away from the existing road corridor;
  • a new junction at Shab Hill, providing a link from the A417 to the A436 towards Oxford and into Birdlip;
  • a new junction near Cowley, replacing the existing Cowley roundabout;
  • the existing A417 between the Air Balloon roundabout and the Cowley roundabout repurposed with some lengths of existing road converted into a route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, while retaining other sections to maintain local access for residents.

Kier’s team for the project will include contractor Volker, architects Arup, engineering consultant Tony Gee and RPS to prepare for and construct the 3.4-mile route.

Kier and National Highways completed a budget setting process in the early part of this year. The contract award follows a competitive procurement process through National Highways’ Regional Delivery Partnership framework.

Government inspectors are examining a planning application for the development, prior to construction starting. The Transport Secretary is expected to make a final decision on the route in the autumn.

Paul Baker, Kier Highways project director, said: “We look forward to working with National Highways and our supply chain partners to deliver this vitally important infrastructure project to improve the connectivity of the strategic road network.

“We are a national business with a local focus and throughout the duration of the project, we will support the local community through employment opportunities and social value initiatives that leave a positive legacy.”

National Highways said the project would deliver “a safe and resilient free-flowing road” which would help conserve the character of the surrounding Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It said to ensure this, it would deliver:

  • two miles of dry-stone walls;
  • eight miles of hedgerow;
  • Seven hectares of native woodland;
  • Five hectares of scrub;
  • 15 hectares of native grassland;
  • 72 hectares of calcareous grassland.

Michael Goddard, project director for the A417 at National Highways, said: “We are delighted to be working with Kier to move forward this vital scheme. Kier has an extensive track record working with National Highways and delivering large scale infrastructure projects, so we are confident they will deliver a scheme that meets our landscape-led vision."

Councillor Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, added: “I’m really pleased we’ve reached this key stage of this vital project. After such a long wait, it really feels like the solution for the ‘Missing Link’ is much closer to becoming a reality.

“Completion will bring improved safety and air quality along with more reliable journey times leading to huge benefits for our county’s economy as well as creating new habitats and habitat connections for native wildlife.”

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